If you’ve just started reading food labels, you may frequently come across maltodextrin. You may also wonder what it is. Maltodextrin is a white, tasteless powder that typically dissolves in water. It’s commonly found in cereals, chips, frozen meals, and more. Chances are, you’ve likely consumed maltodextrin at some point without even knowing it! Is maltodextrin vegan?
Maltodextrin is 100% vegan because all of its ingredients come from plants. Maltodextrin usually comes from corn, but it may also be made from potato, wheat, rice, or tapioca. Though maltodextrin is vegan, it’s highly processed. It’s also high in sugar and saturated fats, and should only be consumed in moderation. The best vegan alternative to Maltodextrin is Coconut Sugar.
This article will discuss why maltodextrin is vegan, its nutrition facts, and some healthier alternatives. Let’s dig in!
- What is Maltodextrin?
- Why Is Maltodextrin Bad For You?
- What Are the Side Effects of Maltodextrin?
- What Foods Have Maltodextrin?
- What is the Nutritional Value for Maltodextrin?
- What is Maltodextrin Good For?
- Vegan Alternatives to Maltodextrin
- Related Questions
What is Maltodextrin?
Maltodextrin is a type of polysaccharide or carbohydrate that is highly processed. It usually comes from corn, wheat, rice, potato, or other plant starches. The starches undergo a chemical process. This process involves cooking them at high temperatures with a mixture of chemicals to further break them down. In the end, you will have a white, flavorless powder, also known as maltodextrin.
This process is also known as hydrolysis. It’s also the same process used to make corn syrup. Though the two go through the same process, they are slightly different. The sugar content of maltodextrin is somewhat lower. Maltodextrin contains less than 20% sugar, and corn syrup contains greater than 20% of sugar.
Maltodextrin is often used to thicken foods. Sometimes it’s also used to modify the consistency of processed foods. You can find maltodextrin in a plethora of foods ranging from snack foods to salad dressings.
Maltodextrin also acts as a preservative to increase the shelf-life of foods.
Why Is Maltodextrin Bad For You?
The FDA approves maltodextrin as a food additive. It’s also “GRAS” (generally recognized as safe). However, it is not a good idea to consume foods with maltodextrin regularly.
For starters, maltodextrin is high on the glycemic index (GI). This means consuming maltodextrin can cause blood glucose spikes. Although maltodextrin is usually not found in large quantities in products, it still counts toward your daily carbohydrate intake.
Those with diabetes should be especially mindful when consuming foods that have maltodextrin regularly.
Consuming foods with maltodextrin can also hinder your weight loss goals. This is because it is often used as a sweetener and is high in sugar. Maltodextrin also has little to no nutritional value and doesn’t have any nutrients. It can also lead to weight gain. Despite its sugar content, it doesn’t taste very sweet, making it difficult to detect.
Studies have shown that maltodextrin can alter your gut’s bacteria and put you at a higher risk for disease. It can prevent the growth of probiotics or the “healthy bacteria.” Maltodextrin can also increase the growth of harmful bacteria that are associated with digestive issues like Crohn’s.
Sometimes, maltodextrin is made with genetically modified (GM) corn. While genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are deemed safe by the World Health Organization, many people choose to avoid consuming GMOs.
A lot of people avoid GMOs because they believe they can cause cancer, kidney disease, allergies, reproductive issues, and more.
What Are the Side Effects of Maltodextrin?
Major side effects associated with maltodextrin consumption are rare. However, some people that have a sensitivity to maltodextrin may experience:
- Skin irritation
- Difficulty breathing
- Weight gain
What Foods Have Maltodextrin?
Many foods have maltodextrin. If you have diabetes mellitus or simply are trying to limit processed foods, it’s essential to know what foods contain maltodextrin.
Unfortunately, many foods we regularly consume likely contain maltodextrin. In fact, you’re likely to have quite a few foods in your pantry with maltodextrin.
Here’s a list of some popular foods that contain maltodextrin:
- Artificial sweeteners
- Salad dressing
- Baby food
- Cooked cereals
- Frozen dinners
- Sports drinks
- Sugar-free products
- Low-calorie products
- Meat substitutes
Some companies also add maltodextrin into non-food products. You may find it in shampoo, conditioner, livestock feed, or lotion.
Now that you are aware of some of the foods with maltodextrin, let’s look at its nutritional composition!
What is the Nutritional Value for Maltodextrin?
Maltodextrin, similar to table sugar, has four calories per gram. Surprisingly, despite its neutral taste, maltodextrin has a higher glycemic index compared to table sugar. This can cause your blood sugar to rise very quickly.
A teaspoon of maltodextrin has around 16 calories and 3.8 grams of carbohydrates. This means if you consume 100 grams of maltodextrin, you are essentially taking in 380 calories and 95 grams of empty carbohydrates.
Maltodextrin has 0 grams of protein, 0 grams of fat, and 0 grams of fiber. It also does not have any vitamins or minerals and is essentially an “empty calorie” food additive.
What is Maltodextrin Good For?
Despite its bad rap, maltodextrin may actually be good for some people, in small quantities, of course!
Since maltodextrin is a carbohydrate, it is a good source of energy. If you’re trying to bulk up or gain weight, maltodextrin is a good way to get in extra calories after a workout session.
In fact, many endurance gels used by athletes are primarily composed of maltodextrin.
One study aimed to look at the effect of maltodextrin supplementation on a group of marathon runners. One group of runners were given 60 grams of maltodextrin distributed throughout the day. The other group of runners was given maltodextrin only on an as-needed basis.
Those who consumed 60 grams of maltodextrin cut 10 minutes off of their completion time compared to the other group. Neither group experienced significant GI symptoms.
Many people take maltodextrin for the treatment of hypoglycemia. This is because it absorbs fast in the bloodstream and is an easy solution to return glucose levels to normal.
There’s also some evidence that maltodextrin can help prevent colorectal cancer. One study published in 2015 concluded that Fibersol-2, a type of resistant maltodextrin, prevented tumor growth.
So, what’s the difference between resistant maltodextrin and maltodextrin? Let’s take a look.
Vegan Alternatives to Maltodextrin
Thankfully, there are some healthier vegan alternatives to maltodextrin. Although they may cost more, it’s always good to know there are healthier alternatives.
Some of the healthier alternatives to maltodextrin include:
- Coconut sugar
- White sugar
- Brown sugar
- Corn starch
- Agave nectar
- Fruit juice
- Date syrup
- Guar gum
If you’re on the hunt for an alternative thickening agent, pectin and guar gum both make excellent alternatives to maltodextrin.
In my opinion, dates are one of the healthiest alternatives to maltodextrin. This is because they have a sweet taste and contain more nutrients. Dates are high in potassium, zinc, and fat-free.
Maltodextrin is completely fine to add to your vegan diet. However, it’s important to be mindful of how much you are consuming.
If many of your foods contain maltodextrin, you are likely eating a highly-processed diet that is low in fiber. Highly processed diets have been linked to many chronic diseases, including heart disease, elevated cholesterol, diabetes, and depression.
It’s essential, especially for those following a vegan diet, to properly nourish your body with healthy plant-based proteins, high fiber veggies, and whole foods.
As long it’s consumed in moderation, vegans can certainly include maltodextrin in their plant-based diets.
Is Maltodextrin Gluten-Free?
Yes, despite “malt” in the name, maltodextrin is gluten-free and safe for those with gluten sensitivity. Typically malt is an indication that a product contains barley. However, even if maltodextrin comes from wheat, its processing removes traces of gluten. It is still important to check the food label to ensure your food doesn’t contain gluten-containing ingredients.
Is Maltodextrin the Same Thing as Sugar?
Maltodextrin is a polysaccharide, meaning it is composed of several sugars. Despite its bland taste, your body converts it to glucose much faster than table sugar, which can cause an instant spike in blood sugar.
Is Maltodextrin Dairy Free?
Yes, maltodextrin is dairy-free. It does not contain any dairy products.